In showbiz, an industry overrun with hotheads and egomaniacs, the film editor somewhat resembles a starlet’s shy little sister. They contribute the most behind the scenes and are closest to the key players, though you’ll rarely see them in the limelight.
“The people who leave editing, a lot of times the first thing they say is, ‘I couldn’t stand being alone in that room,’” says Michael LaHaie, a freelance editor who recently left a three-year stint at Queer Eye For The Straight Guy. “For the people who thrive on it, it’s not boring at all.”
And while the writer may put pen to paper (or finger to keypad), in many respects the editor is the true storyteller, especially when it comes to documentaries (or reality TV shows).
“When you start a project, it’s a puzzle,” explains LaHaie. “It’s this huge mass of mystery, and the most enjoyable part is not when you finish, but when you feel like you’ve turned a corner and you’ve found a story. You didn’t force it. You found the one true story.”
The editing lifestyle isn’t for the meek. The hours can be long (sometimes more than 50 hours a week), and the work solitary and erratic (these guys often work freelance). The pay range is incredibly varied. Beginners might earn nothing more than a strong resumé working on an independent film; documentary filmmakers could earn $4,000 a week. However, there’s never a shortage of work. Documentaries features, commercials and web videos all need good editors.
However, like with most industry jobs, finding a gig is often left up to chance.
“A lot of us lucked into this,” explains LaHaie. “It’s really about being in the right place at the right time.”